Thursday, April 30, 2009

Photo Dump Day

It's Photo Dump Day, Kiddies, and here's #1:

There's Kurt, sweeping up flower petals at the front door yesterday morning. This tree is usually gorgeous for a couple of weeks each summer, but high winds and lots of rain have left it bare of petals almost as they blossomed. Think of doing your hair all up, and then stepping out into a tornado. Same thing, this poor tree.

This concludes Photo Dump Day, as I accidentally reformatted my memory card yesterday, in the process erasing all of my photos.

I snagged a shot of that tree from last year, though, when it was in its glory.

That's all folks. We are off to St. Louis in the morning, to begin preparing for Jen & Bill's wedding, on Saturday. I'm stupid excited, new dress, new shoes, new control-top everything!

Everything's ready to go, and I set this evening aside for a Spa Manicure AND a Spa Pedicure. They are capitalized here, because I was So Excited. I had an appointment with the same salon that botched the last pedicure, and gave me all of my $ back. A second chance, we are going to get this right!!!

I tra-la-la'd into the lobby tonight, happy as a lark...only to have the clerk at the front desk inform me that my technician had gone home sick.

That's fine. Who would be taking her place, then?

Well. Um.

No one. I could reschedule, though, "sorry."

They HAD, they pointed out, left a message on my answering machine 3 hours before.

When I was at work.

I was NOT a happy camper; I was, in fact, LIV.ID. when I left the salon. No, I did not throw the fit I felt like throwing, what could they do, pull a technician out of a lamp?

Well, I did throw that fit, a little bit. I called poor Clint, and said "#$%#@#$%#@%#$@%." And then I went racing over to the reliable, stand-by, "Walk-ins Welcome" place that charges 1/3 of what the salon charges. Frustrated at missing out on my spa experience, I walked in and ordered the works.

Nyeh, stupid expensive salon!

Take that!

I'm happy now. I have the minty-est fresh toes in town.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What's Your Return Policy?

As we prepare for Jen & Bill's upcoming (Saturday!) wedding, I find myself shopping a bit more than I normally would...and making more returns that I normally do.

When you're building something as large as a house, thousands of dollars are to be saved by making returns and exchanges, and demanding this weeks' sales prices. Just this week, for instance, the price of a saw that Clint purchased dropped $50 before ours was even delivered.

Clearly, you get your money back on something like this.

But what if you receive lousy service, or use or wear something that isn't quite up to snuff? Do you exchange it or get your money back?

I think of a recent expensive spa pedicure that was gifted to me. The polish never set up, and top of my toe was sanded off, leaving an ugly scab that lingered for 3 weeks. Does one get a return on a pedicure?!! My friends gave me a resounding yes, and silly as I felt complaining, I did get my money back and am returning to the spa.

Likewise, bad haircuts. Remember my infamous bad haircut? (L) What I asked for and (R) what I left the salon with:

The hairdresser I hired to "fix" that cut couldn't believe I paid for it. I didn't know that I could refuse; service was, after all, rendered.

And what if a thing just isn't what you expected?

I just returned a pair of shoes that were comfortable when I tried them on, but a leather over-stitch turned out to be razor-sharp, and I was bleeding in 4 hours. This was questionable, as the souls were scuffed. After showing the clerk the flaw in the design, and admitting that I'd worn them, she still merrily returned my money.

I would have cut my losses on that one, admitting that I did put some wear on them, but this one really gets into my craw: A handbag I purchased a couple of months ago. This is another item that I don't usually spend much for, but I splurged, "just this once."

8 weeks later, though, here's what's going on with the straps of the purse:

And the lining:

This is a "designer" purse, purchased from Bergner's. Not $3000 designer purse, but a $90 designer purse, and when I bought it, I naively expected it to last 10 any old $15 purse from Walmart would, you know.

Of course, I don't have the tags, or the receipt; all I have is a crappy purse that's falling apart everywhere, and I'm not going to take it back. Still, I am extremely displeased. Displeased, I say! I just slapped the table top, that's how displeased I am, and I'm going to be a schmo and do nothing about it. Take that!

Likewise, I bought 2 pairs of glasses last summer that I can't see jack out of. I had been warned about adjusting to new bifocals. Couple that with wearing them so seldom that by the time I figured out that the lenses really were messed up, I was well past the 30-day exchange policy in the contract that I signed.

Sometimes I'm brave and sometimes I'm a schmuck.

What's your return policy?

Have you ever demanded money back for lousy services rendered?

Have you ever returned something after using, washing, or wearing it, or owning it for a bit too long?

Tell me.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Artists Against Aids 2009

Today is the last day of Artists Against Aids, 2009; you have until 7 p.m. to get out and purchase something cool.

Friday night was, as usual, one of the funnest nights of the year; it's become a reunion of sorts: We meet up with friends, gab about how we must get together soon...and don't see one another until the next AAA show. We *swear* we aren't going to do that again this year; we really ARE going to see each other again soon. We are!

My buddy Mark got a new camera last year, so he's my partner in photographic crime...and he's allowed me to get lazy at events that we attend together. Most of the photos that appear on this blog are his. This one, for instance:

As always, there was a great turnout on Friday night I finally got to meet Cynthia from The Sandwich Life, and her husband, Ernie:

They were already my friends; we just hadn't yet met. I had no doubt we would, someday, and now we can proudly claim AAA '09 as Our Anniversary.


Here's a piece of art that I didn't buy. Here's what I did buy.

My future-daughter-in-law-Courtney was in attendance. Oh, how I showed her off, and made her hug gobs of friends she'd never met. We aren't much for mere handshaking in our circle, no sirree. Some of my introductions went like this: "Courtney, this is Melissa, and she will be at the wedding." Hug-hug-hug.

Oh, there's Melissa now, standing behind Jim & Lori. They've only been married a year, and still can't keep their hands tongues off of each other.

Here's Mark, standing next to one of his photographic masterpieces.

And of course, it wouldn't be AAA without Atef Ayadi:

And it also wouldn't be AAA without one of us setting Atef straight. Photographic evidence suggests that it might have been me, this year.

God knows what we're talking about; I'm probably still trying to get it through his head that chickens do not produce milk. If you've ever met him, you'll merely nod your head, and think "yes, that's probably what she was doing."

A few more sidenotes about the weekend. I'm embarrassed that I have not yet acknowledged another friend that sent jewelry to me, to submit, by proxy, into the show. Momma Dee placed these pieces in the show, pieces that seemed to have been sold by the time we arrived early Friday evening.

Yay, Momma Dee, thanks for supporting the cause

Another fun aspect to the weekend was that our friend D drove down from Chicago to attend the show and spend the weekend. How bizarre it is to feel like I can either share that with you OR I can post photos that he appears in, but I'm scared to do both, for fear of jeapordizing Clay's career, due to Don't Ask, Don't Tell. I know this isn't a political post, but here's a piece of art featured in the show that portrays exactly what I think of this:

Sadly, Clint had to work and couldn't attend on Friday night, but we returned Saturday night for a look around. Also, I didn't get photos of these friends this year, so I'm shamelessly recycling this photos from last year's blog. Zia, Kaye, & Kristy:

Except Kristy wasn't there, as she met with a terrible accident and broke both of her ankles. At least, you see, that is the story I was told, and promptly ran around telling everyone I knew. Poor Kristy would not be attending this year, and that is why.

It turned out that she didn't break both ankles, but she did break two bones in one ankle, which is the same thing, right? Kaye did show up, and spent the evening setting everyone straight on the rumor that I started

Actually Diane started it. She was there also, but she cut out early due to having just had hernia surgery, and that's the truth.

And I'll close with a little mystery to the evening, and I'll try to be discrete. I received a "confessional" text on my cell phone Friday night. I don't know who it was from, and I was flummoxed about how to respond: Was it meant to be an admission, in confidence? Was it a practical joke? Was it even meant for me? In the end, I sent back a lame-o, "who is this?" and haven't heard back. What would you have done? And if it WAS you, I'm sorry I was such a tool in responding

Anyway, few more hours to catch some good art, get off work and stroll over there. If you don't make it, we'll see you next year, a'ight?

More photos of the evening can be viewed here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy 50th, Big Tim Stud

My brother in law turned 50 today, and my sister threw a big party for him tonight.

As he put it: If life begins at 40, then he's only 10 years old.

That's about right.

Happy Birthday, Bro. Here's to the next 50.

(More party pix to be uploaded tomorrow.)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Upcoming: Artists Against Aids

A quick reminder, Artists Against Aids is next weekend. I've been attending this gala for years, and have written about it every year since I've been blogging (here and here and here).

After choosing and sizing and manipulating photos, we got together yesterday to finalize our entries for the show. We recently bought a fancy new printer, and the fancy printer paper that goes with it promises that the photo color will be true for ONE HUNDRED YEARS. No more Walgreens photo processing for us.

Clint entered 1 photo, I entered 2, and friend Mark was the big winner, with 14 framed pieces. We met at 1:00 yesterday afternoon, intent on finishing up our printing, shopping for frames and mats, and throwing them together by 4:00, when the doors opened for registration.

Har, har, how naive we were, silly procrastinators. Mark and I dragged our photos into Michael's, trying on frames, choosing mats, and deciding that some might work better if we reprinted them when we got home. We didn't even get back to the house until 4:00, to dig into the real meat of the project!

Of course, that could have been due to a bit of goofing off at Michael's too. It's so easy to lose track of time, when there are hats to be tried on.

Back to work soon enough, though:

Doh! At one point I heard a sickening crack, and turned around to find that Mark had dropped his knee down on the glass of the most expensive frame we purchased.

Not a good moment in the day, but we are nothing if not resilient. We were out the door by, um, 8 p.m., to take our goods for registration. Only 4 hours later than we'd anticipated. We put in our 3 pieces,

and helped Mark registered his mountain of stuff.

We wandered the room a bit, checking out the entries, and chatting with acquaintances.

(Clint's back there in the back, on the right, with a ball cap on. See him? He's so cute.)

We left the Orpheum theater right at 9 pm., the close of registration for the day, and zipped to the Esquire for a celebratory pizza. We did it! We are contributing Art-teests to this year's show!

There's a lot of magnificent stuff there, already, and with the close of the Boneyard Arts Festival last night, they expect tonight to be the big night for entries.
I hope you'll check in for the art, and for the cause next weekend. Friday night is opening night, and it's a gala I look forward to every year. Free wine (tips are appreciated), and snacks, and a lot of good friends. I'll go back on Saturday, and probably again on Sunday...and maybe on Monday to get a better look at the art, and to watch the progress of the show.
Artists Against Aids

Friday April 24th: 6-10 pm
Saturday April 25th: from 1-10 pm
Sunday April 26th: from 1-7 pm
Monday April 27th: from 1-7 pm

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tell Me: Family Vernacular

I'm often amused at turns of phrases that don't "really" exist in the English language, but are still are commonly used in different cliques or families. A slip of the tongue, or a child's innocent mispronunciation, and we adopt those terms into our vocabulary for life, and often even hand them down.

Frugal Mom and I, for instance, both often substitute "I can't know" for "I don't know." Actually, I'm not sure where we even picked that up; she lived with me for a short while when she was twelve years old, did we coin the phrase then? "I can't know."

Likewise, my niece, corrected to say "May I," instead of "Can I" when she was a toddler, just played it safe, and combined the two into "Can I May," and that stuck also. "Can I may go outside?"

My employer grew up in Israel, and many of us, over the years have adopted (ok, mimicked, goodheartedly) his tendency to say "Is there is..." instead of "Is there..." "Is there is any cake left?"

My favorite, from my family, resulted from a visit to the grocery store when Brian was about 2 years old. Something festive going on that day, there was a guy in a gorilla suit standing outside the front door.

I decided to just button my lip and see how Brian would react. He gave a little start, but just moved closer to me, without a word. And a little closer...and then a little more closer. By the time I walked into the store, Brian was riding on my leg like a little monkey himself, still never having said a word. Kind of like the little guy on the right, here:

Yeah, that's him.

When we got inside to safety, he got back on his feet, and noted, "did you see that big 'ol mmmmmmmmonkey?" (Yes, you have to draw out the "M" to get this right.) I played dumb, so he explained it to me: "There was a big ol mmmmmmonkey out there, Mommy; it was a big ol' mmmmmmmmmonkey." On and on about the big ol monkey, while I laughed myself to tears.

From this incident, "big 'ol mmmmmmonkey" is now an adjective, in our family, for anything that is large, huge, excessive. I've used it for 20 years or so, and Clint has even started using it, when he needs to get his point across. You will hear us say, "It was a big ol mmmmmonkey fire," or "look at this big 'ol mmmmonkey green pepper I bought today."

What about you? What unique phrases have you and your family or friends adapted into your everyday vernacular? How did they come into existence?

Tell me.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Repeal “Don't Ask, Don't Tell”

I decided to split my introduction to D, and my opinions on the current U.S. policies concerning gays and lesbians in the military, into 2 different posts

My opinion is that they're deplorable, thank you very much.

65,000 gay and lesbian soldiers (that's a low estimate; there are those that think it's closer to 100,000) are serving this country right now. They are driving tanks, and patching wounds and cooking and accounting

I've talked to a lot of people about this in the last couple of weeks, including my son and other soldiers, commanding officers, and gay friends. I've learned a lot, and gotten a lot of different perspectives.

One point seems to be brought home universally: The repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, when it gets here, isn't going to be a miraculous "toggle" for gay soldiers. Ta-DUH, life is easy! Uh, no. One officer, S, noted that there are victims of prejudice in all walks of society:

[even though]...women and blacks have proven their value and abilities in the military, the system still hasn't fully adapted to the integration. People say
that's bad, but the reality is society hasn't either...if there are still equality issues in the real world why should the military be any different?...It's sickening the number of crimes against women being committed in the combat zone, and it's not just rape and harrassment.
These truths have ancillairies that get very ugly, but I try to stick to the subject today. Prejudices and hate crimes, sadly, continue to exist everywhere, and the repeal of DADT isn't going to shelter gay and lesbian soldiers from those individuals small-minded enough to commit them.

It will, however, ensure their jobs. And their benefits. And support for their families that the rest of us are presented with the minute one of ours signs up. It will ensure that all soldiers that do their jobs, and work for and fight for this country will be guaranteed the rights and benefits due to them for their service.

The repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell is currently slated to be dealt with sometime in 2010; and many believe it won't happen in this term at all. My friend Tracy opines:

For the next four years, the *only* issues that Obama will spend any time
on...will involve how to fix the economy. Gay civil rights? That won't help the economy. . . . that's going to be shoved aside.
Well. That may be true, but here's also what I believe:

There aren't very many problems—in any aspects
of our lives—that are solved with our silence.

If you have a problem with a soldier—any soldier—giving his or her all for this country, and being dishonorably discharged, as D said in his letter on the last post, "for who they love," then raise your voice.

You don't have to "yell" to raise your voice.
  • Talk about this.
  • Cut & paste.
  • Link to this blog.
  • Link to D's blog.
Writing a letter to your state reprensentative or senator is easier than you think—you can fill out the forms and your concerns right online!

  • Write your representative—House of Representatives . To find yours, punch in your zip code, click on your representative, hit the "Contact us” button, and fill in the blanks.
  • Webforms, e-mail addresses and mailing addresses for your state senators can all be found here: United States Senate.

Writing letters and taking action can be intimidating, I know. Many people feel that they don't write well enough, or they just don't know what to say or where to begin. If you'd like to write, and you're stuck, or need a little help, e-mail me. I'm still learning as I go, but I'll help you. If you have more questions, I may not have the answers, but perhaps together we can find them.

Keep in touch, won't you?

Friday, April 10, 2009

More Introductions

I'd like you to meet another friend of mine. A fellow blogger, I met him, originally when Pobble sent him to me for a little moral support when his spouse was deployed.

We speak often now, as his loved one is in Iraq, and mine will redeploy in October. Clint and I met him in February, when we coincidentally ended up within blocks of one another for our Chicago weekend. He met us at the RV show and we spent a few hours gabbing and climbing in and out of RVs, comparing ours and his to the expensive luxury models at the show.

I'd like you to meet D:

Oh. Well. You see, I have a dilemma. I can either introduce you to D, or I can tell you about him. I'm opting to tell you about him, because he has an important story.

D's partner's name is Clay. He is 43 years old, and has served in the military for 20 years. Clay is one of at least 65,000 gay soldiers serving this country, and as I said, is in Iraq, right this minute.

When Brian was deployed, I got a phone call from a counselor. I got names and numbers for support groups. I got coaching on mailing, and people to talk to if I became scared or sad. There's a Family Readiness Group for me.

There is nothing like this for D, or for others in his situation. He can't easily seek out support without risking Clay's career. I can go on and on, but D says it better, in his letter to President Obama, asking him to repeal the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy:

...I am compelled to remind you that there are tens of thousands like me who continue to suffer under the current policy. My partner is currently serving in
Iraq, and is in a situation where he is under fire on a daily basis. He's a good soldier, and our country needs him to continue doing the excellent job that he
has been recognized for.

The day he deployed, I dropped him off far from the his base's main gate, and he walked alone in the dark and the rain to report for duty. Where the rest of his buddies were surrounded by spouses and children at mobilization ceremonies, he stood by himself.

The phone trees don't have my name on them, and base support services don't apply—even though we've been together for 16 years and are raising a beautiful child together.

Our communication is self-censored and we are cruelly unable to nurture each other at the exact moment we both need it the most.

If something were to happen to him no one from his unit will call me. If, like so many good soldiers before him, he gives that last full measure of devotion, no one will come knock on my door. No one will present me with a flag. It is, and would be, as if the most important thing in his life—his family—never existed.

I am not sure if I can adequately convey the mixture of fear, pride, heartache and hope I feel, all jumbled together, on a daily basis. But I ask you to consider relieving the burden of fear and dishonor from our brave men and women who risk being punished simply for whom they love.
This is my friend, D.

I cannot imagine not having had the support I did when my son was in Iraq. There were so many days I wanted to crumble, and I'd get a comment, an email, a note from one of you that literally kept me going.

Please head over to Diary of a Gay Soldier's Husband, and read for yourself. His writing is poignant, and raw, and real. It often takes my breath away, as it takes me back to moments and emotions I experienced when Brian was in Iraq. It also prepares me for his redeployment.

While you're there, put a little wind beneath the wings of D and their daughter, while they wait for Clay to get home, will you?

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


When Brian was just a lil' kid, say 10, 11 years old, he became friends with this other lil kid at school named Chris. I've written about Chris here several times, he's The Kid that showed up on my doorstep with flowers and cards on Mother's Day, when Brian was in bootcamp, and again when he was in Iraq. He left messages that he knew my own couldn't, on Christmases and Thanksgivings.

I remember Brian coming home from Chris's house a few times, when he was just a 'lil kid, grumbling about how annoying Chris' little sister was. Probably tried to get into their secret clubhouse, or eat all of their pizza or something.

This annoyance, though, eventually transformed into something else. Courtney was okay. Then, Courtney was his friend. Over the years, it's been clear that Courtney has been a friend of a special sort to my son. I watched them through their teen years, as they stood beside each other during tough times, made demands that the other get their act together, walked away from one another when they had to, and then naturally reappeared, steadfast and unapologetic.

I'm in the Mom-Loop, so I never quite got the full story on their relationship. I'd come home to find him highlighting her hair, and there was a prom here, a dance there.

I was never sure if they were ever an "item" but I knew—we all knew, I think—that Brian was in love with her. I think I started jokingly referring to her as "Courtney-My-Future-Daughter-in-Law" when Brian was about 14 years old. I'd drop it, occasionally, because it sounded silly, and I knew how much he cared for her, but I could never help trotting that back out. It seemed, well...kind of obvious.

See, I didn't really know what would happen between these two, but this much I knew for sure: My son is at peace when Courtney is the room. He's happy. He's relaxed.

He is, simply where he should be, when he is with Miss Courtney Hinton.

That said, I'd like to introduce you to someone.

Meet Courtney.

My future daughter-in-law.

I don't have to tell you I love her. But I do.

Monday, April 06, 2009

By The People

I received an envelope this weekend from WILL-TV, that contained a DVD with all of the videos from the Lincoln Readings that we did back in October. You asked me to let you know when the videos are available, so I'm letting you know: They're out there. To see all of them, click here: WILL TV: By The People.

The only excerpt that Clint and I caught on the air was the opening medley of all of the participants reading the Gettysburg address.

Here's how mine went:

I wish we would have had an opportunity to meet everyone that read for the series, but we met only the young man that read after I did: Garrett Anderson.

An interesting sidenote is that though I'd never met him, I recommended him as a reader. A blog-reader-turned-friend, StFarmer, invited me to a luncheon in which I met a young veteran named Rob. Rob, in turn, told me about his friend Garrett, who had lost an arm in Iraq, and now did some public speaking about his experience there. "Children love him," I remember.

You know I kind of have a special place in my heart for soldiers, and Garrett is no exception. He's had a tough go with his injuries, and still has to battle the VA to get proper medical coverage. Here's an excerpt about Garrett, from Vets Under Siege.

Having only talked to him for a few minutes, I admire the hell out of him. He arrived early for his taping, and sat through mine, in between takes going over his own. He's very straight forward, and boldly approached the producer with one request: "My tongue was blown up and put back together. I cannot pronounce this phrase, we need to edit." When I spoke to him briefly, months later, in my own search for soldiers at Christmas, he matter-of-factly stated "I was blown up before Christmas." It takes you aback for a second, but sometimes I think we need to be taken aback.

Anyone that watches this Garrett's reading wouldn't know what he's been through, or what he goes through now. His injuries are not reflected, and his title is "Iraqi War Veteran." The last line, as he reads it, buckles me.

Well, this post just got away from me. I intended to give you a couple of links and be done with it, but I get carried away with unsung heroes, y'know? I have to make sure you know about them.

I just do.

Oh, and check out all that Lincoln stuff.